An overwhelmingly large number of teachers of the University of Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Milia Islamia and the Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapith participated in a Dharna on Wednesday, 25th February, at the Arts Faculty, University of Delhi, in protest of the perilous proposals of the UGC/MHRD and the DUTA/ FEDCUTA leadership’s insensitivity towards them.
As DU Beat had reported in the previous issue, the DUTA and FEDCUTA were on a two-day strike on the 19th and 20th of February, in protest of the UGC’s draft proposal regarding teachers’ working conditions. Amongst other things, the proposal outlines a pyramidical structure of posts with a corresponding division of workload and a point-system of evaluation, based on number of indicators, many of which are indisputably non-academic. For this purpose, internal quality assurance committees would be constituted, giving leeway to the college establishment in deciding whether a teacher is fit for promotion. Finally, the imposition of conditions for re-designating Readers as Associate Professors also created a furore, as it implied that teachers would have to be evaluated twice for posts that are supposed to differ only in nomenclature.
Soon after the strike was declared, the UGC issued a clarification stating that the working conditions of teachers were negotiable and that the aforementioned system of evaluation would not apply to those who were promoted to the post of Reader before 2006. Thus, despite the fact that the junior teachers got a raw deal, the official protest, including the demonstration planned for 24th February, was called off.
Given that this clarification notice was an attempt at dividing the teachers’ union, it was indeed heart-warming to see an overwhelming number of teachers, both senior and junior, participate in the Dharna on 25th February, with placards saying “Strengthen DUTA”. This demonstration was organized by an informal coalition of teachers within the DUTA, in order to protest against the insensitivity and inaction shown by the DUTA/ FEDCUTA leadership, by betraying the genuine concerns of a sizeable number of teachers.
Their main anxieties included the downgrading of the teaching profession at the entry level, by reducing the Basic Pay of Assistant Professors, arbitrarily increasing the service requirements for promotion to Associate Professor, non- notification of the Academic Allowance as well as the two advance increments for NET. Simply put, this implies a consolidated loss of Rs. 40 lakhs for teachers, spread over the first 14 years of service. Further, teachers also disapproved of the new pension scheme and the point-system of evaluation described above. Details of these are available on the blog www.teachers4dignity.wordpress.com. A memorandum consisting of the reservations expressed by the teachers will be submitted to the MHRD at the earliest.
While it remains to be found how the DUTA/FEDCUTA leadership and the UGC/MHRD respond to teachers’ concerns, it must be highlighted that beyond the nitty-gritty details of the draft proposal and the opposition it has generated, this is an unconcealed attack on the teaching profession, which will ultimately have dire implications on higher education. Given the fact that these legislations are based on assumptions that universalize the lowest common denominator, it would not be far-fetched to argue that they are reflective of a deep-seated suspicion towards the teaching profession. Indeed, as Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes in Indian Express, “Our regulators are so excessively and over-weeningly concerned about rooting out the weeds that they end up killing the flowers as well, leaving a vast barren landscape.”
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